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Approaching Indie Bookstores

Congratulations on having your book published! We applaud your creativity and commitment.

As you think about marketing it to stores, it’s important to remember that booksellers are inundated with catalogs and solicitations on a weekly basis. Buying decisions are based on their experience and knowledge of their customer base, but other factors can also exert influence undefined price of the book, space in the store, even money in the bank. With that said, here are ways to maximize your chances of getting your book onto independent bookstore shelves.

1. Know the Marketplace

 NEIBA has over 140 independent bookstore members throughout New England and parts of New York, all with distinct personalities and communities of readers. Many are general bookstores, but we also have specialty stores that sell subject-specific titles (Travel, Children’s, Poetry, etc.) and even general bookstores don’t stock every subject category.

With that in mind, you should do some research before approaching bookstores. Visit stores in your area and note their clientele. Do they look like potential readers of your book? Bookstores arrange titles largely by category or subject matter. Consider where your book would be shelved. Is that a strong section in the store?


2. Who to Contact and How

Every store has at least one book buyer; larger stores may have several. Some bookstores require you to make an appointment; others may see you on a drop-in basis.

Your first step should be to identify the store buyer. A phone call is usually all it takes. Ask for the book buyer and be prepared to briefly describe your book and in which section(s) it might fit. If the buyer’s not there, find out when they will be in the store so you don’t waste a trip.

Alternatively, look up a store online and send an e-mail to the attention of the buyer. You can tell them briefly about your book, but the main thrust should be to find out if you can make an appointment or if they’d rather handle things via e-mail.

If and when you get down to brass tacks, they’ll want to know if you’re doing any promotion (not the store’s job) and how your book is being distributed (i.e., is the book stocked at regional wholesalers like Bookazine or nationally by Ingram).


3. Terms

Many bookstores will ask about consignment and we urge you to consider this option. You have a greater chance of having your book stocked if you agree to leave copies on consignment. Some bookstores have their consignment policy stated on their website, so that’s a good place to begin. If your book is a print on demand only title, ask the store book buyer what their policy is as it may differ from published books.

You may have heard that a 60-40 split on the sale of the book is common (you get 60%), but many stores ask for a 50-50 deal. Also, you will likely be asked to check back with the store about sales, usually in 3-6 months (not every week!) If the book sells, that’s great. If not, be prepared to take it home.